Firesign Media: Who Am Us, Anyway?

Who Am Us, Anyway? Who

The Firesign writing partners and voice artists, now in their forty-third year of working together, are Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor. They have collaborated on over twenty-five "movies for the mind," including the early audiophonic worlds of "Nick Danger", "Porgie and Mudhead", "Beat The Reaper", "I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus", and "Everything You Know Is Wrong".

Their 21st century CD Trilogy, "We're Doomed," received Grammy nominations for "Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death" and "Bride of Firesign". The Library of Congress added "Don't Crush That Dwarf" to their highly selective recorded archives. Firesign's many hours of live radio broadcasts and rare movies are now carefully restored collector's items. The group has recently been profiled in two coffee-table books on The Sixties when, according to LIFE magazine, Firesign were "The favorite comics of the Rock Age."

They are, in fact, creators of what Stereo Review's critic Eric Salzman called "contemporary, relevant, multi-level non-linear theater -- a kind of verbal electronic opera." The quartet presents the work in the authentic voice of its author-improvisers of whom Rolling Stone said, "The very least they should get is an Academy Award."

Comedians such as George Carlin, Robin Williams, and John Goodman are big Firesign fans and contributed their comments and compliments to Firesign's live DVD "Weirdly Cool".

In addition to the hours of radio shows they've broadcast (in the mid & late 1960s on "Radio Free Oz", 1970 through 1972 in various incarnations, and in 2001 & 2002 on many record albums they have written and recorded to date, they continue to tour and perform live.

Working on a simple stage with no props or costumes and utilizing only their unlimited character voices, Firesign is now able to give their classic scripts a brand-new performance.

This year (2011) celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the work: We're All Bozos on This Bus.

From the
Firesign Theatre page on

The group's name stems in part from astrology in that all four members are "fire signs": Austin is an Aries, Proctor's sign is Leo, Bergman and Ossman are both Saggitarius.

The group's name also references an early television series called Fireside Theatre, which ran on NBC from 1949 to 1958, as well as to the Fireside Chats radio broadcasts of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a parody of which can be heard in one of the Theatre's Nick Danger adventures.

The Firesign Theatre employs a stream of consciousness style that includes direct references to movies, radio, TV, political figures, and other cultural sources, intermingled with sound effects and bits of music. The resulting stories - including the theft of a high school, a fair of clowns and holograms and aliens who use hemp smoking to turn people into crows - border on psychedelia, an effect intensified by the frequent appearance of mock "advertisements" satirizing real products.

While their stream of consciousness style has the feel of improvisational comedy, most of the material is actually tightly scripted and memorized. The group's writing method demands the consent of all four members before a line can be included. Much of their work has been copyrighted under the name "4 or 5 Crazee Guys."

A large portion of their back catalog is now back in print and available for purchase. Their latest release, "Duke Of Madness Motors", is a book and DVD package containing 80+ hours of "Dear Friends" era Firesign Theatre radio broadcasts from 1970 to 1972.

Some Firesign Theatre jokes have become reality:

"The governor of California IS named Schwarzenegger"
(or was until 2011, at any rate...)

*OK, this one is really Arthur Conan Doyle webmasters:
Brian "Merlyn LeRoy" Westley and Tom "Doc Technical" O'Neill

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